Chamomile

Plant: Chamomile
Botanical Name: Anthemis nobilis

Synonyms, Country Names: Camomile, Common Chamomile, English Chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Matricaria, Anthemis, Manzanilla (Spanish), Maythen (Saxon), Ground Apple, and Lawn Chamomile.

Symbolic: The Chamomile flower is symbolic of energy in action.

Quotations: “For though the Camomile, the more it is trodden on the
faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted the
sooner it wears.”

Falstaff, Henry IV, Part 1, Act II, iv, line 400

Cultivation: Common Chamomile is a perennial groundcover that rarely exceeds 9 inches in height. It grows wild in dry grass and heathland in parts of Europe and in southern England. It is cultivated, but does not grow wild in the United States. Perennial Chamomile succeeds best in a sunny location and comes in two subtypes, single-flower and double-flower. Herbalists prefer the double-flower variety, which adapts to almost any soil, but favors moist, black loam. The tiny seeds may be sown, but most gardeners prefer to propagate the plant from offshoots or runners. The slender, trailing pale green stems are hairy and the leaves feathery and finely cut. The small, daisy-like flowers appear in late summer and consist of a conical yellow center surrounded by white ray-florets. Chamomile does best when it is stepped on. In England, the plant is often used as groundcover on garden paths. Walking on it releases the herb’s lovely apple fragrance and does not hurt the plant.

The Useful Plant: Chamomile has a long history as a herbal remedy, extending from ancient Egypt and Greece to the present day. Chamomile’s daisy-like flowers reminded the Egyptians of the sun and they used it to treat fever, particularly the recurring fevers of malaria. The Greeks and the Romans recommended chamomile to treat headaches and kidney, liver, and bladder problems. Seventeenth-century English herbalists used the chamomile plant to treat fevers, digestive problems, aches, pains, jaundice, kidney stones, congestive heart failure, and to promote menstruation. Today, chamomile is one of the best-selling herbs in Europe and the United States. It is used to make a popular tea by itself or in blends. Chamomile’s apple aroma is the fragrance in many herbal skin-care and bathing products and it has been used in shampoos since the days of the Vikings because it adds luster to blond hair. In Spain, it is used to flavor sherry. Contemporary herbalists recommend chamomile externally to spur wound healing, to prevent infection, and to treat inflammation, and internally as a digestive aid, to prevent and heal stomach ulcers, to soothe menstrual cramps, to treat anxiety and insomnia, to relieve arthritic joint inflammation, and to stimulate the immune system.

Folklore: Chamomile has an apple-like fragrance and flavor and derives its name from a Greek word meaning ‘ground apple’. The ancient Egyptians revered it for its virtues and dedicated it to their gods. It was also well known to country folk of old, having been grown for centuries in English gardens for its use as a common domestic medicine. Chamomile, along with pennyroyal, daisies, and violets, were used in medieval gardens to make soft outdoor benches that were permanently fragrant. During the American Revolution, chamomile was referred to as the Rebel’s Flower because it was symbolic of “energy in adversity” and during the 19th century, it was often included in bridal bouquets because it symbolized patience. Chamomile is widely considered to be the “doctor plant” in gardens because its mere presence revives the ailing plants around it. In pagan, wican, and native circles, chamomile is used in prosperity charms to attract money, burned with incense to produce a relaxed state for meditation, burned alone to induce sleep, added to ritual baths to attract love, and sprinkled around one’s property to remove curses and bad spells.

Personal: Chamomile plants have been in my garden and home for many years. I enjoy the plant’s aroma and have found it relatively easy to grow and care for both indoors as a house plant and outside in the garden. My favorite personnel use of the chamomile plant is to make a wonderful, relaxing, herbal tea.

Ken Gamauf
Colorado Shakespeare Gardens
April 18, 1999